Manufacturer: Multiple

Finding Your Clique

One of the difficulties with purchasing a mechanical keyboard is that they are quite expensive and vary greatly in subtle, but important ways. First and foremost, we have the different types of keyswitches. These are the components that are responsible for making each button behave, and thus varying them will lead to variations in how those buttons react and feel.

cherrymx-barekeyswitch.png

Until recently, the Cherry MX line of switches were the basis of just about every major gaming mechanical keyboard, although we will discuss recent competitors later on. Its manufacturer, Cherry Corp / ZF Electronics, maintained a strict color code to denote the physical properties of each switch. These attributes range from the stiffness of the spring to the bumps and clicks felt (or heard) as the key travels toward its bottom and returns back up again.

  Linear Tactile Clicky
45 cN Cherry MX Red
Cherry MX Brown
Razer Orange
Omron/Logitech Romer-G
 
50 cN    
Cherry MX Blue
Cherry MX White (old B)
Razer Green
55 cN   Cherry MX Clear  
60 cN Cherry MX Black    
80 cN Cherry MX Linear Grey (SB) Cherry MX Tactile Grey (SB)
Cherry MX Green (SB)
Cherry MX White (old A)
Cherry MX White (2007+)
90 cN     IBM Model M (not mechanical)
105 cN     Cherry MX Click Grey (SB)
150+ cN Cherry MX Super Black    

(SB) Denotes switches with stronger springs that are primarily for, or only for, Spacebars. The Click Grey is intended for spacebars on Cherry MX White, Green, and Blue keyboards. The MX Green is intended for spacebars on Cherry MX Blue keyboards (but a few rare keyboards use these for regular keys). The MX Linear Grey is intended for spacebars on Cherry MX Black keyboards.

The four main Cherry MX switches are: Blue, Brown, Black, and Red. Other switches are available, such as the Cherry MX Green, Clear, three types of Grey, and so forth. You can separate (I believe) all of these switches into three categories: Linear, Tactile, and Clicky. From there, the only difference is the force curve, usually from the strength of the spring but also possibly from the slider features (you'll see what I mean in the diagrams below).

Read on to see a theoretical comparison of various mechanical keyswitches.

Microsoft's Universal Mobile Keyboard Is Coming Soon

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | September 17, 2014 - 06:57 PM |
Tagged: windows, mobile, microsoft, keyboard, ios, Android

Let me share a story. There was a time, around the first Surface launch, that I worked in an electronics retail store (and the several years prior -- but I digress). At around that time, Microsoft was airing ads with people dancing around, clicking keyboards to the Surface tablet with its magnetic click or snap. One day, a customer came in looking for the keyboard from the TV spots for their iPad. I thought about it for a few seconds and realized how terrible Microsoft's branding actually was.

microsoft-mobile-keyboard-universal.jpg

Without already knowing the existence of their Windows 8 and RT tablets, which the ads were supposed to convey, it really did look like an accessory for an iPad.

Doing Microsoft's job for them, I explained the Surface Pro and Surface RT tablets along with its keyboard-cover accessories. Eventually, I told them that it was a Microsoft product for their own tablet brand and would not see an iPad release. The company felt threatened by these mobile, touch devices and was directly competing with them.

...

So Microsoft is announcing a keyboard for Windows, Android, and iOS. Sure, it is very different from the Type and Touch Covers; for instance, it does not attach to these devices magnetically. Microsoft has also been known to develop hardware, software, and services for competing platforms. While it is not unsurprising that Microsoft keyboards would work on competing devices, it does feel weird for their keyboard to have features that are specialized for these competing platforms.

There are three things interesting about this keyboard: it has a built-in stand, it has special keys for Android and iOS that are not present in Windows, and it has a built-in rechargeable battery that lasts up to 6 months. The peripheral pairs wirelessly with all of these devices through Bluetooth.

The Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard is coming soon for $79.95 (MSRP).

Source: Microsoft

A half dozen pairing suggestions; does your mouse match your keyboard?

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 03:10 PM |
Tagged: input, corsair, logitech, Mad Catz, razer, roccat, steelseries, gaming mouse, keyboard, round up

The end of summer brings more than just pretty coloured leaves, you can also expect to see round ups of products released this year.  The Register has put together an article looking at the best mice and keyboards for gamers which are currently available.  In most cases they pair a keyboard and mouse from the same company so that your desk will look impressive with matching peripherals.  It is not just about the aesthetics though, they also provide you with an overview of what features make each pairing unique and the features that should intrigue you.  Check it out right here.

corsair_vengeance_k70_gaming_keyboard.jpg

"In the case of the keyboards and mice I’m reviewing, it might be difficult to put forward a convincing argument that they are to blame, as they are all developed to make the very best of my gaming talents, but often this comes at a preposterous price."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E M Wireless Keyboard Is Unusual

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | August 6, 2014 - 08:18 PM |
Tagged: keyboard, travel keyboard, htpc keyboard

So, I am writing about a wireless, non-mechanical keyboard.

Mad Catz has made a weird keyboard layout. Honestly, it looks like something from a 1990's-era sci-fi video game. I could imagine "Lev Arris" pulling it out of his trench coat while discussing space pirates. It also includes mouse and media functionality, even when pairing with Android and iOS devices (it connects with Macs and PCs, too). It's also small.

mad-catz-strike-m.jpg

As stated earlier, its keys are not mechanical. They are, also, not membrane-dome. The keys are based on scissor-switches, common with laptop keyboards. While I do not know the specifics of this keyboard, I do not know of any scissor-switch keyboard with removable keys. This means that, if something gets stuck under a keycap, you cannot remove it (unless you intend to never put it back on). Again, Mad Catz could have done something special, but it is something to think about -- especially if you intend on using this keyboard in the living room while eating.

The keyboard has an adjustable, white backlight for the "main" keys. It is, also, $100. This is definitely a unique design, tailored for a living room (or hotel room) experience. It is not cheap, but interesting. I could see it being useful, especially if a user could use it for both their living room, and during travel.

Source: Mad Catz

Live and Let Dvorak

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | January 19, 2014 - 11:46 PM |
Tagged: Keyboards, keyboard

Peter Bright down at Ars Technica wrote an editorial about the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon. His opinion is that keyboard developers should innovate in ways that "doesn't undermine expectations". Replacing a row of physical keys for a software-controlled touch strip is destructive because, even if the change proved invaluable, it would ultimately be inferior because it clashes with every other keyboard the user encounters. He then concludes with a statement that really should have directed his thesis.

Lenovo's engineers may be well-meaning in their attempts to improve the keyboard. But they've lost a sale as a result. The quest for the perfect laptop continues.

23-keyboard.jpg

That is the entire point of innovation! You may dislike how a feature interacts with your personal ecosystem and that will drive you away from the product. Users who purchased the laptop without considering the keyboard have the option of returning it and writing reviews for others (or simply put up with it). Users who purchased the laptop because of the keyboard are happy.

I mainly disagree with the article because it claims that it is impossible to innovate the keyboard in any way that affects the core layout. I actually disagree with it for two reasons.

My first issue is about how vague he is. His primary example of good keyboard innovation is the IBM ThinkPad 701c and its "butterfly keyboard". The attempt is to increase the keyboard size to exceed the laptop itself to make it more conventional. Conventional for who? How many people use primarily small laptops with shrunken keyboards compared to people who touch-type function keys?

The second critique leads from the first. The PC industry became so effective because every manufacturer tries to be a little different with certain SKUs to gain tiny advantages. There could have easily been a rule against touchscreen computers. Eventually someone hit it out of the park and found an implementation that was wildly successful to a gigantic market. The QWERTY design has weathered the storm for more than a century but there is no rule that it cannot shift in the future.

In fact, at some point, someone decided to add an extra row of function keys. This certainly could undermine the expectations of users who have to go between computers and electronic typewriters.

It will be tough, though. Keyboards have settled down and learning their layouts is a significant mental investment. There are several factors to consider when it comes to how successful a keyboard modification will become. Mostly, however, it will come down to someone trying and observing what happens. Do not worry about letting random ideas in because the bad ideas will show themselves out.

Basically the point is: never say never (especially not that vaguely).

Source: Ars Technica

Video Perspective: Topre Type Heaven Keyboard

Subject: General Tech | December 18, 2013 - 06:20 PM |
Tagged: video, Type Heaven, topre, keyboard

I don't consider myself a keyboard guru, but I sure do go through a lot of them in my line of work.  At any of five different workstations in our office I'll be using a different keyboard.  And we tend to interchange them often enough that I would guess I have typed on as many as 15 different keyboards this year.  Some for longer periods of time than others of course, but the ones that make it to my main desk get quite a workout.

IMG_9048.JPG

When our friends at Seasonic told us they wanted to send along a Topre Type Heaven keyboard for us to try out, I told them to feel free; but in my head I was thinking "oh geez another keyboard."  Turns out I didn't give this brand and this keyboard enough credit out the gate.

(Note: Seasonic is the official distributor of the Topre keyboard brand in the US now and offers a 2 year warranty on the units!)

IMG_9049.JPG

With a price tag of $150 on Amazon.com, there are going to quite of few of you that just instantly turn off.  Understandable.  Others though will appreciate the need for a high quality input device if you do any appreciable amount of typing for work or pleasure.  Using a technology called electrostatic capacitive key switches, Topre combines benefits of Cherry and standard membrane keyboards in one package.

Check out my video above for some sound comparison as well as my thoughts on using the keyboard long term.  Not to spoil it: but I'm keeping this keyboard on my desk despite me missing the multimedia controls of my previous keyboard. 

Check below for more photos of the Topre Type Heaven keyboard!!

CODE Keyboard Is Probably Pretty Good

Subject: Cases and Cooling | September 2, 2013 - 02:12 AM |
Tagged: WASD Keyboards, mechanical keyboard, keyboard, CODE

... But if you read the blog post, you would think it is the one keyboard to rule them all.

The CODE is the product, literally, of a collaboration between Stack Overflow co-founder Jeff Atwood and Weyman Kwong of WASD Keyboards. I recognize the tongue-in-cheek humor and I acknowledge that the team are clearly (that was not a Cherry MX switch pun... that I would admit to) well suited to the challenge of designing a keyboard for programmers.

code-trio.jpg

Before we run through the opinion, its key touted perks are:

  • Cherry MX Clear switches
    • Similar to Cherry MX Brown with much more resistance. Hard to bottom out.
  • DIP switches to customize functionality without software.
  • White LED backlighting
  • Very stable rubberized ergonomic flaps and angled pads.
  • Detachable Micro USB cable

The thing is, WASD Keyboards already allows users to purchase customized keyboards. As far as I can tell, the CODE is just a variant of the existing WASD V2 104-key Custom Mechanical Keyboard with white backlighting. Both Keyboards are priced at $149.99. The CODE limits your choice but provides you with the illuminated keys and the MX Clear switches, normally a $10 upgrade, in exchange for just taking what you are offered without question. Okay, you can ask for a 104-Key or an 87-Key version, so one question is allowed. Still, the CODE is a good value; as I mentioned, you basically get free key lighting and a free upgrade to Cherry MX Clear.

code-v2-87-dip2.jpg

But it is still not an epiphany for mechanical keyboard lovers.

At one point, I hoped to take some time for a hobby and modify a mechanical keyboard to fit my specifications. I envisioned an aluminum body enclosing solidly built buckle-spring keys. I did not know about Cherry MX Green switches at the time. For keycaps, I imagined two pieces of glass sandwiching a translucent white plastic sheet masked with a black symbol for each letter. I figure the feel of glass would be more pleasing to the fingers than warm plastic. Each key would, of course, be let from underneath with a soft white (blue-doped-white) LED. Each translucent sheet would softly diffuse the light except for the shadow of whatever characters the key represents.

That would be a revolution... for me. I think I would like the feel of cool glass under my fingers.

So I guess I leave the post with a question for the viewers: What would your "perfect" keyboard be?

Source: CODE
Author:
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Razer

Introduction and externals

Razer maintains a distinct sense of style across their product line. Over the past decade and a half, Razer has carved a spot in the peripherals market catering to competitive gamers as well as developing wholly novel products for the gaming market. Razer has a catalog including standard peripherals and more arcane things such as mice with telephone-style keypads geared toward MMORPG players as well as motion sensing controllers employing magnetic fields to detect controller position.

01.jpg

The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth 2013 Edition comes out of the box ready for use without additional software provided or assembly required.  The keyboard uses a standard layout with five macro keys attached in a column on the left of the board. Rather than dedicated media buttons, media and keyboard specific functions are accessed by pressing a combination of a function key located to the right of right alt and the function keys on the top row.

02.jpg

The headphone and microphone jack are present on the side of the keyboard.

Continue reading our review of the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth Keyboard!!

Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard and Mouse

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | August 14, 2013 - 08:46 PM |
Tagged: windows rt, mouse, microsoft, keyboard

I would normally begin a product announcement with some introduction but, this time, a quote from Mary Jo Foley seems a better fit:

These new peripherals work with Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows RT, though only "basic functionality" is provided when used with Windows RT.

Problems with Windows RT, it is now obvious, go beyond Ethernet dongles and I would be shocked if Microsoft Hardware are the only ones suffering. We have already heard Plugable, an adapter and peripherals company, complain about Microsoft and their demand for Plugable to pull Surface RT drivers from their website. I cannot see this being a few localized issues.

microsoft_kbmnum_desktop_hero.jpg

These are the problems you will experience with a platform where the owner has complete control. Imagine how bad Windows RT will be if Microsoft slips behind, again, in Internet Explorer development; the only browsers allowed must be Internet Explorer reskins. But I digress.

The Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop is a mouse, keyboard, and number pad with a unique appearance. Non-uniform keys pushing upward to a split should conform to the hand of a typical home row typist. WASD gamers might as well stop reading by this point. Microsoft is not known for mechanical switches so I would expect this keyboard to be typical membrane-based activation.

microsoft_kbmnum_side.jpg

Side-on shows off the depth better.

That said, most Microsoft peripherals I have used tends to keep up with mechanical in terms of durability and performance... except wired Xbox headsets. Those little turds snap within a matter of hours.

The mouse, on the other hand (literally), does not seem to include extra mouse buttons except for a dedicated Windows button. If you have not figured it out by now: gamers are not the target audience. It seems fairly standard otherwise, from a feature standpoint, although comfort and durability are the big deciding factors for many users which we are not in a position to give an honest opinion on.

Together, the devices are available within the week and retail for $129.95. The keyboard, separately, will be available in September for $80.95; the mouse, separately, will be available for $59.95. High price, but it might just be worth it for dedicated typists.

Source: Microsoft

CES 2013: Corsair Next-Gen Vengeance Series Gaming Keyboards, Mice, Mouse Mats, and Headset Drivers

Subject: General Tech | January 8, 2013 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: vengeance, mouse, MM600, M95, M65, keyboard, K95, gaming mat, gaming headset, corsair, CES

Corsair upgraded their Vengeance line of products with the Vengeance K95 Gaming Keyboard, Vengeance M95 and M65 mice, Vengeance MM600 Gaming Mat, and driver enhancements for the Vengeance 200 Wireless Gaming Headset.

Vengeance K95 Gaming Keyboard

01-K95_top_Glow.png

Courtesy of Corsair

The Vengeance K95 Gaming Keyboard is an evolutionary step in the growth of Corsair's award-winning keyboard line. Corsair used the K90 keyboard as a foundation, and added a brushed-aluminum chassis and Cherry MX key mechanical switches on all keys. Additionally, the K95 keyboard features 18 programmable macro keys and a 1ms reporting rate.

02-K95_angle.png

Courtesy of Corsair

Corsair further enhanced the original K90's design by added individually back-lit keys with adjustable light intensity. The keyboard back-lighting can be macro-controlled and is adjustable to four pre-set levels.

The Vengeance K95 Gaming Keyboard will be available at a retailer near you in January at an MSRP of $149.99.

The Vengeance Gaming Mouse - Enhanced

Building on a successful design, Corsair pushed the envelope with the Vengeance M95 and M65 Gaming Mice. Both are encased in stylishly designed uni-body aluminum chassis and feature the Avago Technologies ADNS-9800 LaserStream™ gaming sensor. With this sensor, both mice boast a maximum tracking resolution of 8200 DPI more than enough to defeat any electronic foe.

Vengeance M95 Gaming Mouse

01-M95_black_top_LIT.png

Courtesy of Corsair

The Vengeance M95 Gaming Mouse has been fully optimized for MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) gamers with 15 intuitively placed, programmable buttons. Further, the M95's on-board memory can store up to six macro profiles.

02-M95_white_viewB_lit.png

Courtesy of Corsair

The M95 Gaming Mouse also includes a fully back-lit mouse-wheel house area and back-lit buttons. The Vengeance M95 is available in both Gunmetal Black and Arctic White colors.

The Vengeance M95 Gaming Mouse will be available at a retailer near you in January at an MSRP of $79.99.

Vengeance M65 Gaming Mouse

01-M65_black_top_LIT.png

Courtesy of Corsair

The Vengeance M65 Gaming Mouse was designed with FPS (First Person Shooter) gamers in mind with a programmable Sniper button, instantly adjustable DPI, and adjustable center of gravity. The Sniper button is the red thumb button on the left side of the mouse, placed for easy access for instant toggle action.

02-M65_green_viewB_lit.png

Courtesy of Corsair

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Courtesy of Corsair

Similar to the M95, the M65 Gaming Mouse includes a fully back-lit mouse-wheel house area and back-lit buttons. The Vengeance M65 is available in Gunmetal Black, Military Green, and Arctic White colors.

The Vengeance M65 Gaming Mouse will be available at a retailer near you in January at an MSRP of $69.99.

Vengeance MM600 Dual-sided Gaming Mat

Corsair designed the MM600 Dual-side Gaming Mat to appeal to many types of gamers. One side of the mat has a more textured design for superior mouse control, while the other side is a smooth texture for high-speed gliding. The MM600 is designed with a 3mm piece of aircraft-grade aluminum at its heart to provide a rigid surface and is encased in a specially designed polymer for superior performance and longevity. Additionally, Corsair includes non-slip rubber corners on the mat so that the surface stays in place during those critical fragging moments.

The Vengeance MM600 Dual-sided Gaming Mat will be available at a retailer near you in January at an MSRP of $39.99.

Vengeance 2000 Wireless Gaming Headset Driver Update

To further enhance you audio gaming experience, Corsair will be releasing driver support for the Dolby 2.0 Headphone spec on the Vengeance 2000 Wireless Gaming Headset series. With this updated support, the Vengeance 2000 series will fully support audio delivery in full 7.1-channel surround sound. Corsair expects to release this update sometime in February.

Press release after the break.

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